Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rampant Sex and Drug Use -- Why the Movies Aren't Like They Used to Be

If there's one thing I love more than exploitation movies, it's books about them.  Sleazoid Express is one of those that is about those movies as much as it is about the experience of watching them in New York City's Times Square ... before it got all gussied up for the dance.  Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford have penned a love letter to a bygone era, a time where going to the movies meant taking your life in your hands.  Rampant sex with other movie goers and prostitutes, robberies, drug use, criminals fleeing the police.  I wish the movies were that fun now.  (And let's face it, if you are dumb enough to see something like Transformers you need to get robbed again.)

Fans of exploitation films may be a bit upset over the actual film coverage.  Divided into sections, the book only gives an overview of some the examples from each genre.  One or two movies in each is delved into in detail, and there is much hate doled out for some of the shining examples of exploitation (such as Cannibal Holocaust).  What is left, however, are some fascinating tales of the theatres and the people who made them and starred in them.  Other books may have covered the latter, but few have actually covered the theatres, delving into urine-soaked bathrooms where people can be found shooting up; or even going into the mazes that sometimes connected one theatre to another, the hallways of which became predator playgrounds with woe being visited upon anyone stupid enough to make their way through them too slowly.

If anything, Sleazoid Express is a historical look at a place and era that cannot be replicated in any kind of meaningful scale.  Some may try, but the Times Square of that time period was shaped by the people around it, who were shaped by the events they lived through.  The films were just as dangerous, products of addled minds and the belief that doors to cinema were wide open.  It was a time where anything could happen in film ... and did.  We have lost that.  Brilliantly psychotic filmmakers are now relegated to DVDs, which can be viewed in the safety of one's home.  Hardcore porn no longer plays en masse in the "bad" section of town.  Double features are as rare as original ideas.  Reading the book doesn't fill me with nostalgia.  It fills me with sadness.  That environment will never exist again, and I can't help but think that not only is current cinema all the worst for it, but so is the future of film. 

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this book, and if you click on the link to order it I may earn a commission.

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